What in the world would a Jane Austen novel have to do with Barack Obama?
Austen’s last book which she wrote before dying is titled “Persuasion,” and in the introduction to the novel, Gillian Beers, Professor of English at the University of Cambridge, delves into the meaning of “persuasion.” According to the definitions and exploration of the word, one can’t help but think about Barack Obama. Indeed, for Barack Obama is undoubtedly a master of the art of persuasion.
Drawing from classical philosophy and stories of the Bible, Professor Beers explains the dual nature of the word and reveals “the double-tongued dangers of persuasion.” Persuasion is the tool of both the demagogue and the democrat. Beers quotes from John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost,” “The serpent with me, persuasively hath so prevailed, that I have also tasted.”
The meaning of persuasion is foremost “The act of persuading; the act of influencing by expostulation; the act of gaining or attempting the passions,” according to Johnson’s “Dictionary of the English Language.” When defining the verb ‘”to persuade,” we discover that “Persuasion” seems rather applicable to the passions, and “argument” to the reason; but this is not always observed.
Lady Russell, one of the main characters in Austen’s book, has the reputation of being “able to persuade a person to any thing! I am afraid of her,” declares one character. And we think the American people have reason to feel the same way about Senator Barack Obama.
Obama seems to be able to stir up the passions and emotions of people while not revealing his policies. His voting record is one of the most liberal in the entire Senate and that is what makes him dangerous. But his charisma and ability to persuade people to vote for him don’t seem to be affected by his ideas. Conservatives, liberals and moderates are all equally entranced.
There is a certain seductive quality to the act of persuasion, and along with the help of Hollywood, Obama has captured the hearts of many, especially young people. There is a music video on the web which demonstrates the tactic. It is artfully produced by a number of young, popular Hollywood stars and singers. The video masterfully mixes in images and a few words of Obama but keeps repeating them like a hypnotist’s mantra.
The senses are captivated by the video. Sight and hearing are manipulated in a very slick manner to mix Obama speaking and music. By the end of the video, you have heard and seen the words “hope” and “change” so many times you feel brainwashed. Apparently that is what Hollywood is trying to do in their promotion of Barack Obama.
Obama seems like a likeable person but that is where some of the danger lies. Aristotle describes in his “Rhetoric” several styles of persuasion. Professor Beer notes one type of persuasion Aristotle discusses “depends on the stature and nature of the person who utters the argument,” and herein lies part of the problem. As Aristotle suggests, “We believe good men more fully and readily than others.”
Obama is poised to win the Democratic nomination for president, and few even know what he believes. His campaign message obfuscates what he does believe, and one is just left with a good feeling after hearing him speak. Hillary Clinton is right; his speeches don’t tell us much about what he believes. His record is short and unaccomplished. How are we to accurately judge him?